Today I listened to a Jess Lively podcast Our Emotions Do Not Equal Our Circumstances. It was a great podcast on emotions and how the don’t necessarily have to be controlled by our circumstances. I’ve read a lot about this lately in Ryan Holiday‘s “The Obstacle is the Way” and most recently in Mark Manson‘s “The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck“. It’s very interesting to think that something that has always caused us pain or anxiety can be changed with practice and dedication. AKA work.

Here are my takeaways from her podcast:

We have a limited emotional scale of about 15-20 emotions (see the visual example here). Our circumstances do not define where we land on the scale

Different people are not basing their emotions off the same expectations that we already have preset in our habits, therefore they have different emotions for the same circumstance

We think experience = emotion but thats not necessarily true

We will not necessarily have to feel the worst because of the worst circumstances

We can rewire our thinking and choose better feelings without the circumstances needing to change

Express empathy towards otherswhat know what emotion they are feeling regardless of the circumstances around the feeling so we can empathize with them. At the same time, check that we are not lowering our own emotional scale because of their emotion

Their life is their journey and we cannot force them into anything, such as our way of thinking

Question whether the emotion we’re currently feeling is serving us or if we can float to a higher level on the scale

Doesn’t mean that we always have to be positive all the time, but we can practice lifting ourselves up and build an emotional muscle

Related Reading:


A recent post by, “Thoughts are not facts“. I love this example they use:

So you’re waiting in the hallway with your mind spinning about how it’s been a pretty crappy day and life just doesn’t seem to be moving in the direction you’d like it to. Your friend walks by you and although you raise your hand to wave hi, she looks at you and just walks by.Take a moment to sense what happened in your mind before reading any further.

Various thoughts may have arisen in connection with uncomfortable emotions:

  • “What did I do wrong?”
  • “I’m worthless.”
  • “I knew it, nobody likes me.”
  • “What the hell is wrong with her?”
  • “What’s the point, really.”

OK…now let’s say your boss just told you what a fantastic job you’ve done and how she’s going to give you a 15% raise and an extra week vacation. This is great news…as your mind is spinning around all the ways this will enhance your life, your friend walks by and as you raise your hand to say hi, she just walks by.

Now what comes up in your mind?

Many people might have an alternative viewpoint here.

  • “I wonder what’s wrong with her.”
  • “I hope she’s ok.”
  • “Maybe she didn’t see me.”

Same event, different precipitating event and mood, different interpretation.

Great example of how a different perception can control how we feel in the moment and in future moments that follow.

From the Daily Stoic:

There is no good or bad to the practicing Stoic. There is only perceptions. You control perception (‘X happened’ or ‘X happened and now my life is over’).